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Common Defense Richard Falknor on 09 Aug 2008 10:31 pm

The Other Georgia and Our Security

UPDATE August 11! Michael Ledeen explains here:

“To believe what is in front of our noses is extremely unpleasant: namely that the Russians carefully planned this operation, and then carried it out when Putin was in Beijing, along with Bush. And yet the evidence is convincing (quite aside from the fanciful notion that Georgia was itching for a war with Russia).”

Michael Rubin adds here:

If I were the Baltic states and Poland, like Georgia on the receiving end of Russian threats; Taiwan, on the receiving end of Chinese threats; Israel, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, on the receiving end of Iranian threats; or Columbia, on the receiving end of Veneuzelan subterfuge, I would be very worried indeed at the ineffectiveness of Washington’s response.”

To follow on-the-ground details, see Blackfive’s “The Devil went to Georgia” here.

UPDATES August 10! Power Line Blog here assesses the response of the candidates to Russian aggression in the Caucasus:

“McCain has strongly and unequivocally come out in support of our ally Georgia, while placing the onus for the war squarely where it belongs, on Russia. In this, he has aligned himself with our most loyal European allies. Obama, on the other hand, issued the sort of vapid statement that would ingratiate him with the State Department while not requiring any distraction from his Hawaii vacation. An interesting point, by the way: McCain is supposed to be the old guy, but Obama is the one who needs a vacation.”

Mid-East expert Michael Rubin declares here on NRO:

” . . . I’d argue that we needn’t wait for Obama for a second Carter term: The whiplash policy reversals that have marked Bush’s second term have already moved U.S foreign policy into Carter mode.”

* * * * *

The collision of the military forces of Russia and those of the Republic of Georgia are masked for many by the news of the Olympic Games in China and the day-to-day maneuvers of the contenders in our own presidential contest.

In his column today here, however, Roger Kimball writes:

“But I suspect that in the years to come what most historians–and perhaps the rest of us, too–will think of when we hear the date August 8, 2008 is not China, and certainly not old what’s-his-name with the hair, the mistress, and pathetic claims of being “99 percent honest“. What we’ll think of is the country of Georgia and we’ll realize that August 8 was the date when Russia began reassembling the former Soviet empire in earnest.

When Russian tanks and troops poured into the separatist Georgian province of South Ossetia yesterday, it was not, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, part of a ‘peacekeeping mission.’ It was part of an imperialist mission whose undeclared goal is to reabsorb the whole of Georgia–West-leaning Georgia with its critical oil pipeline supplying energy to an increasingly thirsty Europe–into mother Russia.

Indeed, that pipeline is the unacknowledged key to the drama–unacknowledged, anyway, by the belligerents. As an AP story notes, the ‘U.S.-backed oil pipeline runs through Georgia, allowing the West to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern oil while bypassing Russia and Iran.’ A good thing for the West; but is such autonomy something Russia (or, for that matter, Iran) wants to encourage?” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

But read all of Kimball’s column to get his historical perspective.
Adds NRO’s Andrew McCarthy here:

I suppose if we are thinking about turning our country over to the second Carter term — or the first McGovern — it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Russia go into its Aghanistan mode … or Czechoslovakia … or Hungary … or (as Roger reminds us) Georgia.”

DEBKA here emphasizes energy as the gravamen of the Russian grievance:

“DEBKAfile’s geopolitical experts note that on the surface level, the Russians are backing the separatists of S. Ossetia and neighboring Abkhazia as payback for the strengthening of American influence in tiny Georgia and its 4.5 million inhabitants. However, more immediately, the conflict has been sparked by the race for control over the pipelines carrying oil and gas out of the Caspian region.

The Russians may just bear with the pro-US Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili’s ambition to bring his country into NATO. But they draw a heavy line against his plans and those of Western oil companies, including Israeli firms, to route the oil routes from Azerbaijan and the gas lines from Turkmenistan, which transit Georgia, through Turkey instead of hooking them up to Russian pipelines.

Saakashvili need only back away from this plan for Moscow to ditch the two provinces’ revolt against Tbilisi. As long as he sticks to his guns, South Ossetia and Abkhazia will wage separatist wars.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

DEBKA’s most recent post here paints a stark picture of Russian menace.

The Weekly Standard’s May 16 “The Kremlin Went Down to Georgia: Our friends in the Caucasus need help” post here by Charlie Szrom also touches on the energy as well as security concerns:

“Instability in Georgia in the short-term and a non-NATO Georgia in the long-term would destroy Georgia’s value as a strategic energy corridor, a democratic example, and a key U.S. military partner.

The only Central Asian oil not from Russia or Iran passes through Georgia via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline at a volume of up to 1 million barrels a day; conflict with Russia would lessen or eliminate this energy supply. A greater petroleum monopoly would further empower Moscow and Tehran. Conflict in the Caucasus would push up oil prices already nearing $125 a barrel, hurting American consumers anguished by nearly $4 a gallon gas.”

And Anne Applebaum warned in May here:

“Thus, when the Russian news agency announces that Georgia is about to invade Abkhazia, it may mean that Georgia really is about to invade Abkhazia. But it might also mean, as everyone in the region understands, that Russia is about to invade Georgia–as a ‘preemptive strike,’ of course.”

This is a time for careful calculation of our own and our allies’ security interests. The porous posturing of senator Obama and his circle (or the vaporings of the isolationists on the so-called Right) just don’t do the job. We’ll feel the energy and security consequences of a deteriorating situation right on Main Street – – – they won’t be limited to remote places with difficult-to-pronounce names. One hopes the administration’s eager search for diplomatic “legacy achievements” – ranging from North Korea to Iran – does not contribute here to miscalculation on the part of those nations that wish us ill.



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